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TAIBAH UNIVERSITY, COLLEGE OF ENGINEERING

104 Technical Communication, Research Paper


Spring Semester, 1431

TITLE
Water-Pipe Corrosion at Water Stations
in Saudi Arabia

By:
Fulaan bin Fulaan Al-Fulaan
6810000
GA

For:
Mr. Yahya Flood

Background
Corrosion is one way in which metal breaks down. Chang (2007:6) describes corrosion as
the damage in metal resulting from an oxidation reaction with the surrounding medium.
Corrosion is very common in pipes at water desalinization stations at or near the beach.
Water stations are located in this type of environment specifically to treat seawater. The
seawater itself seems to be the cause of this corrosion. The composition of seawater is
diverse. In addition to fresh water, seawater also contains rocks, soil and various organisms
(Al-Amody, 2002). According to Dr. Mohammad Derwish (personal interview, 2009), these
non-water-based contents in seawater are mostly responsible for the presence of corrosion
in water pipes. One of the ill effects of corrosion at water stations is that pipe openings
become blocked by scale formation. Blocked pipes, in turn, reduce water pressure and
reduce water temperature, which increases natural gas consumption. In water distribution
pipelines, valves, and fixtures, corrosion can also cause the degradation of the quality of
drinking water. This situation is misleading to consumers, who assume their water stations
.are purifying the seawater properly
Introduction
Water stations are vital today and Saudi Arabia depends on these stations. According to Dr.
Mohammad Derwish (personal interview, 2009), Saudi Arabia has 32 water stations spread
throughout the Kingdom. They provide us with fresh water, but the water pipes in these
stations contain some degree of corrosion. Water stations produce approximately twomillion-cubic meters of water per day (Al-Hamdan, 2008). Most of the population of Saudi
Arabia, therefore, faces the disagreeable effects of this corrosion from the drinking water
generated at the stations. This is a health hazard that must be solved. As a result,
engineers are obliged to find a solution to the problem of water-pipe corrosion in the local
water stations.
Review of Literature
In the Arabic Gulf area, the most popular method used to treat seawater is Reverse
Osmosis. This process depends on separating the fresh water from its salt content by
pressure through a semi-permeable membrane or filter. Reverse osmosis membranes also
hold back suspended impurities, such as silt, colloidal particles and microorganisms by
virtue of their ultra-fine pore size (Ashororth, 1995:22; quoted in Banks, 2007:4). Reverse
osmosis is perhaps the best method of water purification available today. Although Reverse
Osmosis may be the best choice among water purification systems, Sireen (2007:17)
argues that Reverse Osmosis does not purify the water 100%. Some impurities are left
behind, which, over time, corrode the water pipes and slow down water-station operations.
Moreover, the quality of drinking water also becomes compromised (Mozahim, 2003).
One way of overcoming water-pipe corrosion involves repiping some or all of the water
station. This approach is commonly executed only when corroded water pipes are beyond
repair. Corroded water pipes that are still sound should be cleaned and infused with some
form of anti-corrosion treatment.
Another method has been used in many developed countries around the world, like the
United States and Japan. In these countries, a form of mechanical protection was
implemented to abate the corrosion problem. This entails adding alloys like Chromium,
Nickel, and Molybdenum to the interior of the water pipes (Shoemaker and Crum, 1999). In
this way, chemical reactions are minimized between the substances in the water to be

purified and the metal of the water pipes. By using this approach, corrosion can be
drastically eliminated.
A further solution to this problem might be utilizing non-metal water pipes. For example,
PVC-type pipes, commonly used in plumbing, might serve as a substitute since they
normally do not corrode easily. The biggest drawback of PVC piping, according to Riley
(2005:8), is that it may crack or break given the constant heavy load of water that
circulates at water stations. However, this kind of piping has been used successfully in
small-scale water stations across the African continent because of its almost corrosion-free
.properties (Al-Hamdan, 2008)
A final possible solution involves the use of silicate. Silicate is a type of sand flint used in
the manufacture of glass. Davidson (2009:402) states, When silicate is infused into a
piping system, a glass-like surface is formed on the pipe's interior that protects against
corrosion. Since water pipes at water stations are subjected to the intense heat of the sun
on a daily basis in Saudi Arabia, it is unknown whether this layer of silicate would remain in
place. The high temperature could possibly dissolve the glass-like surface, thereby allowing
.the formation of corrosion to occur
What is required is an investigation into the problem of water-pipe corrosion at water
stations in Saudi Arabia. Clearly, there is a need for re-evaluating the quality of the pipeline
systems used at these stations, with the goal of eliminating the corrosion to enhance the
desalinization process, and to produce safe water for public consumption.
Method
The method of conducting this research will be by interviewing Dr. Mohammad Derwish
(see Appendix A). In addition, a survey will be administered to ten engineers at Taibah
University (see Appendix B). The interview and survey will be conducted to find solutions to
the problem of corrosion at water stations. A summary of the results, including alternative
solutions, will be presented, including the advantages and disadvantages of each solution.
A discussion and analysis of the results will then be carried out. Finally, recommendations
will be made on the most feasible solution, along with an implementation plan of this
solution, including recommendations for further research.
Results
An interview was conducted with Dr. Mohammad Derwish, Professor of Heat Engineering,
at King Abdulaziz University. He was asked questions relative to finding solutions to the
problem of water-pipe corrosion at water stations in Saudi Arabia. He acknowledged that
Reverse Osmosis is the best choice among water purification systems for the desalinization
of seawater, even though it eventually causes corrosion to the water-piping system.
Regarding the above-mentioned solutions to this problem, Dr. Derwish claimed that repiping
entire water stations is the last resort because of its high expense. He also rejected utilizing
PVC-type pipes, since they cannot hold up with the constant weight of water that circulates
at water stations. His opinion of silicate was that it is an innovative preventer of water-pipe
corrosion, but, to his knowledge, it may not be able to withstand the high levels of
temperature prevalent in the local climate. He went onto say that further research needs to
be carried out to determine if this is a feasible approach. When asked what solution he
recommends, Dr. Derwish revealed that adding alloys to the interior of water pipes to
minimize chemical reactions is perhaps a viable alternative.

A survey was also conducted with ten engineers at Taibah University to find the most
suitable solution to the problem of water-pipe corrosion at water stations in Saudi Arabia.
The results of this survey are shown below in Figure 1.
Figure 1 Surveyed Solutions for Water-Pipe Corrosion

Mechanical protection, versus silicate protection and repiping, was selected as the best
solution to this problem. Six survey respondents (60%) selected mechanical protection,
three survey respondents (30%) chose silicate, and one (10%) opted for repiping.
After analyzing the literature on water-pipe corrosion at water stations, interviewing Dr.
Derwish, and conducting a survey, the researcher found that there are 3 feasible solutions,
which are classified into the following three categories:
1. Mechanical Protection: This protection involves adding some alloys to improve
the mechanical and chemical properties of the internal metal in water pipes.
2. Silicate Protection: It depends on using silicate in water pipes, which forms a
glass-like surface on the pipe's interior to reduce the accumulation of corrosion.
3. Repiping: This approach involves replacing corroded pipes with new ones.
Discussion
What follows is an analysis of alternative solutions to the problem of water-pipe corrosion at
water stations in Saudi Arabia. Table 1 below shows the summary of these solutions with
their advantages and disadvantages.

Table 1 Summary of Advantages and Disadvantages of Solutions to Water-pipe Corrosion


SOLUTION

ADVANTAGES

DISADVANTAGES

Mechanical Protection

-easy to install
-availability of alloys in KSA
-reasonable cost
-glass-like protection from silicate
is efficient for plumbing
-silicate is inexpensive
-easy to install
-availability of silicate in KSA

-resists corrosion 80% of the time

-no corrosion in piping system


-water flow is optimized
-purified water is produced
-availability of pipes in KSA

-in time, corrosion will occur


-eventual obstruction of water flow
-degradation of the quality of
drinking water
-pipe replacement/repair is costly
and time-consuming

Silicate Protection

Repiping

-may not resist high temperature


levels and eventually melt
-water pipes must be cleaned before
silicate is put in place
-the use of silicate in the water-pipe
medium needs more research

One possible solution to the problem of water-pipe corrosion at water stations is mechanical
protection. Mechanical protection in this specific context may be described as adding some
metal alloys to the interior of water pipes. Bazzoni (2006:7) said, "an alloy is a mixture of
two or more metals combined for a specific purpose. For example, the important alloys
added to cast iron are Chromium, Nickel, and Molybdenum. Alloys tend to be stronger and
offer more protective properties than metals alone. Chromium is a major alloy that resists
corrosion media on iron about 80% of the time because it reacts with oxygen to form a layer
of film. As alloys, Nickel and Molybdenum do not produce a layer of film on iron, but they
assist the Chromium to improve the properties of this layer (Shoemaker & Crum, 1999:6).
The second conceivable solution involves the use of silicate. Silicate is often used as a
water-treatment program that can restore piping in household and commercial plumbing
systems. It is non-disruptive and eliminates the expense of reconstruction and redecoration
involved in repiping. With this treatment program, silicate is continuously injected into the
piping system. According to Davidson (2009:403), this process forms a glass-like surface
on the pipe's interior that protects against future damage. It reduces the effects of erosion in
copper piping, reduces corrosion buildup and reopens rust-blocked lines in galvanized
piping, reduces pinhole and thread leaks, and reduces slime in PVC systems. A minor
concern with the use of silicate is that corroded water pipes should be cleaned before
silicate is put in place. The only major problem with this system is that its use in water pipes
for desalinization is limited. There is some speculation that the excessive heat from the sun
may dislodge the silicate, thus leaving the water pipes unprotected from corrosion. More
research needs to be conducted with the use of silicate in desalinization operations to
.confirm its effectiveness against corrosion
The third distinct solution for resolving water-pipe corrosion involves repiping some or all of
the water station. Repiping is a plausible alternative when corroded water pipes need to be
replaced. Repiping has some obvious benefits; the new piping system is corrosion free,
water flow is optimized and purified water is generated. At the same time, the Corrosion

Experts (2008, online article) claim that repiping can be seen as a temporary solution since
new corrosion may eventually manifest itself. As a result of the new corrosive media, the
water flow in the new pipes may be obstructed and the quality of the drinking water would
most likely be compromised. Depending on the size of the project, repiping may involve
water-system shutdowns and is often costly and time-consuming. Much discretion needs to
be exercised when considering this option.
Recommendations and Implementation
According to an analysis of water-pipe corrosion at water stations in the literature, the
survey results of ten engineers at Taibah University and the interview with Dr. Mohammad
Derwish, the most feasible solution to the problem of water-pipe corrosion is mechanical
protection. Dr. Derwish (personal interview, 2009) said, "mechanical protection is the most
convenient and cost-effective solution for water-pipe corrosion at water stations in Saudi
Arabia. The solution requires the procurement of alloy metals. Fortunately, there are many
local factories specializing in producing these metals, such as the SABIC companies in the
industrial cities of Jubail and Yanbu. In addition, this solution has been successfully used in
the desalinization facilities of other countries, like the United States and Japan. The
implementation of mechanical protection consists of four steps:
1.
2.
3.
4.

Formulate a metal alloy comprising equal parts of Chromium, Nickel, and Molybdenum.
Clean and dry water pipes in preparation for the metal alloy.
Infuse the metal alloy to the interior of the water pipes.
Periodically test water pipes for corrosion.

Recommendations for Further Research:


1. Are there new methods to treat seawater instead of Reverse Osmosis? Are they used by
other countries? Are they possible in the KSA?
2. How can the effectiveness of mechanical protection be increased?
3. Evaluate the effectiveness of silicate to prevent water-pipe corrosion in desalinization
stations.

References

Al-Amody, O. (2002). Hyperfine interactions, Journal of Water Management, Vol. 139, 44,
pp. 90-94.
Al-Hamdan, M. (2008). Types of piping, Desalinization Operations, Vol.16, 4, pp. 8-10.
Ashororth, V. (1995). Corrosion, treatment and control techniques, Proceedings of the
First Arabian Conference on Corrosion, Kuwait, (quoted in Banks, J. (2007:4) Using
Reverse Osmosis with Seawater, [online article]. Retrieved April 24, 2009 from the World
Wide Web: www.waterpurification.com.
Bazzoni, B. (2006). Density of States of an Insulating Ferromagnetic Alloy, [online
article]. Retrieved April 14, 2009 from the World Wide Web: www.wikipedia.com.
Chang, R. (2007). Chemistry, Wiley Press, Boston, MASS., USA.
Corrosion Experts. (2008). [online article]. The How and When of Corrosion Treatment,
Retrieved April 19, 2009 from the World Wide Web: www.corrosionrepair.co.uk.
Darwish, Mohammad. Personal Interview. 27 March, 2009.
Davidson, R. (2009). Silicate: A panacea for pipe corrosion. Journal of Water
Management, Vol. 99,1, pp. 86-94.
Mozahim, D. (2003). Reverse osmosis: The good and bad, Desalinization Operations,
Vol.6, 2, pp. 87-88.
Riley, l. (2005). How plumbing affects piping systems. The World of Plumbing, Vol. 19, 7,
pp.29-30.
Shoemaker, L. and Crum, J. (1999). Nickel-Chromium-Molybdenum Superalloys: The
Solution to Corrosion Problems, Addison Wesley, Princeton, N.J., USA.
Sireen, Y. (2007). The effects of the environment on desalinization operations. King
Abdulaziz Journal of Environmental Engineering, Vol. 16, 32, pp. 16-20.

Appendix A

Interview Questions for:


Dr. Mohammad Derwish, Professor of Heat Engineering,
King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, KSA.

1. Is water-pipe corrosion at water desalinization stations a serious problem in Saudi


Arabia?

2. Do all water stations in Saudi Arabia suffer from water-pipe corrosion?

3. What are the most common reasons for the problem of water-pipe corrosion at water
stations?

4. How do developed countries deal with the same problem?

5. What solutions would you suggest for this problem?

6. Are there any countries using the same solution(s) that you suggest?

Appendix B
Survey: Solutions for Water-Pipe Corrosion at Water Stations in Saudi Arabia
Directions: This survey was designed to get your opinion about the most suitable solution
for water-pipe corrosion at water stations in Saudi Arabia. Read the questions below for
each solution. Then, mark the appropriate box for each question, YES or NO.
1. Mechanical protection:
Questions

YES NO

1. Are the materials needed for this solution available in KSA?


2. Is this solution cost effective?
3. Is this solution easy to implement?
4. Is this the most effective solution possible for water stations in KSA?
2. Silicate protection:
Questions

YES NO

1. Are the materials needed for this solution available in KSA?


2. Is this solution cost effective?
3. Is this solution easy to implement?
4. Is this the most effective solution possible for water stations in KSA?
3. Repiping:
Questions

YES

1. Are the materials needed for this solution available in KSA?


2. Is this solution cost effective?
3. Is this solution easy to implement?
4. Is this the most effective solution possible for water stations in KSA?
5. Is there a further solution to this problem other than mechanical protection,
silicate protection or repiping? If yes, please explain on back.

NO